JOHANNESBURG — It was 12:48 a.m. Monday morning in South Africa when Charl Schwartzel sealed his first major title with a birdie on the last hole at the Masters.
Back home on the family farm near Vereeniging, a city just south of Johannesburg, Charl’s father George watched every moment.
That’s a big change for a man who describes himself as “a nervous wreck” every time his son plays, and who has previously gone to sleep to avoid the agonizing tension of watching Charl in action — especially in a final round.
“I was going to take another pill but my wife wouldn’t let me. We watched it all — I still haven’t gone to bed,” George Schwartzel told The Associated Press nearly 12 hours after Charl’s triumph at Augusta National.
The elder Schwartzel took a sleeping pill and went to bed when Charl finished second at the WGC-Cadillac Championship last year after battling with fellow South African Ernie Els down the stretch.
“I told my family to wake me up when it was over,” he said.
At the 2005 Alfred Dunhill Championship, played in Dec. 2004, he napped under a tree on a deserted front nine at Leopard Creek Golf Club — and missed Charl claim his first European Tour title on the back nine.
“I had to find somewhere to lie down. I couldn’t take it. So, I found a quiet tree on the front nine.”
It could have been the same Sunday night, except for his wife Lizette’s intervention.
George — who guided Charl’s career from the age of four, when the youngster played his first nine holes — might have missed it all.
“My dad was stressing again, he couldn’t watch it,” said Attie Schwartzel, Charl’s younger brother and also a pro golfer on South Africa’s Sunshine Tour. “He’s such a nervous wreck. He wanted to take another pill but Mom wouldn’t let him.”
By contrast, his 26-year-old son displayed the coolest of temperaments in the final round at Augusta National.
He had just a single bogey and finished with four straight birdies for a 6-under 66, the best final round by a winner in 22 years. Schwartzel won by two shots over Australians Adam Scott and Jason Day, calmly rolling in the birdie putt on the 18th.
“My daughter was crying about half an hour before he won, then I was crying when he won,” George said. “My wife was happy but she wasn’t crying. She never cries or gets too emotional.
“Charl has got her temperament, luckily.”
Charl’s easy manner was epitomized in his own description of Sunday’s final hole, published on the Sunshine Tour website.
“Driver up 18, 133 yards, pitching wedge to about 14 feet. Sounds pretty simple if you think about it like that,” Schwartzel said.
Earlier Monday, South African newspapers hailed Schwartzel’s performance after he marked the 50th anniversary of Gary Player’s breakthrough win in the Masters with another victory for their country.
In Johannesburg — where Charl was born and lives — The Star called it “Charl’s Masterclass,” alongside a full page photo of a victorious Schwartzel waving to the galleries on the 18th green.
The Afrikaans-language Beeld called Schwartzel’s final round — which also included a chip-in for birdie on the first hole and an eagle on No. 3 — “Masterful.”
The country’s cricket board also sent its congratulations in a statement after what it called a “magnificent performance of which all South Africans are rightly proud.”
“The manner in which he came down the home straight, finishing with four birdies in a row on one of the game’s most testing layouts, demonstrated Charl’s pedigree as a true champion,” said Cricket South Africa chief executive Gerald Majola.
The victory perked up South African sports fans after its team failed miserably at the recent cricket World Cup.
Schwartzel won 50 years to the day after Player became the first non-American to wear the green jacket, and seven of the top 10 finishers were from outside the U.S.
“I am absolutely delighted for Charl and South Africa. Congratulations and very well done to him. That is how you finish like a champion!” Player wrote on Twitter.
Trevor Immelman, the 2008 champion, also congratulated Schwartzel on Twitter.
“Really happy for Charl!!!” Immelman wrote.
“Going to be nice to have some South African food at the Champions Dinner again next year,” he added, in reference to the tradition of the defending champion choosing the menu for the Masters champions’ dinner.